Home Office failings are having a devastating effect on people seeking safety in Britain, a new report claims.
Refugee Action said its research indicated asylum seekers face a “complex web of hostility and mistrust”.
The charity’s assessment flagged up long delays in determining applications, pointing to figures showing that an initial decision was still pending after at least six months in 14,306 cases at the end of last year.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “Britain’s asylum system often does immense damage to people who come to this country to claim protection.
“Refugees are being forced to wait years for a decision on their asylum claim.
“Our research shows the huge stress and anxiety this is causing, as people struggle to provide for their families and survive on little over £5 a day.
“Banned from work or study, they feel hopeless, isolated and excluded.
“The Home Office is systematically failing to respect the rights of vulnerable people.”
I feel like my life has been rotating, I don’t move forwardAsylum-seeker
The criticism is the latest to hit the Home Office following a furious backlash over the Windrush scandal.
Refugee Action’s research – based on 40 interviews with asylum-seekers – found that waiting more than six months, and often years, for a decision is taking a “tremendous toll” on people’s well-being.
One woman, a victim of human trafficking, has been waiting a year and a half for a decision.
She said: “I feel like my life has been rotating, I don’t move forward. It’s the same thing: I’m always a slave to someone.”
The paper also claimed that “bad practices” and “poor decision-making” are putting lives at risk.
Nationally, a third of appeals against refused asylum applications are successful, according to the report.
Refugee Action called for the Government to take urgent action to reform the system.
Its recommendations include giving people the right to work after six months of waiting for a decision, and granting discretionary leave to remain for those forced to wait for longer than a year.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection.
“In 2017 there were just under 15,000 grants of asylum, alternative protection or resettlement, of whom almost 6,000 were children.
“We are committed to transforming the asylum system. We are modernising our processes and have established a new team to focus on more complex cases to make sure that they are decided faster.”
The department said there may be a number of reasons why asylum decisions require further time, some of which may be outside its control.